Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Fun: Religion May Be the Career for You

People always ask me, "Chris, with all the careers out there, why did you choose to be a professor of historical theology?" I tell them it all started on Career Day back in 11th grade, when I saw this ...

I think it was the music, more than anything, that got me hooked. That and the candles.

I doubt whether anyone who reads the account above will take it seriously, but my conscience tells me I ought to take this opportunity to set the record straight and give glory to God. So here it is ...

My Testimony, or, How I Really Got Here

intend not to draw this out (which is always a danger with a student of history, mind you). I grew up in a family whose faith could be described as a few degrees above nominal (Christian in name alone). Even so, I rise up and call my parents blessed for taking my siblings and I to the non-denominational Bible Church in which we were nurtured, however slow we were to respond to its Gospel teachings.

When I was 12, my older brother, Doug, was killed in an auto accident. It was devastating to our family and perplexing to my pre-adolescent mind, but God used this profoundly upsetting event to draw my parents, my sister and I closer to him (Rom. 8:28). We were sensitized to spiritual things almost immediately.

When I was fifteen a well-meaning friend loaned me some Hal Lindsey books (he's now the pastor of this church in Washington state). (Don't laugh: God used Lindsey's Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, of all things, to bring me to a true knowledge of the Gospel!) I believe it was then that I was converted and began this walk I'm still on, by his grace.

I had no one to disciple me. No one knew I had been converted but me, and I didn't know what I needed. I actually mingled with some very, er, non-Christian folks for the next few years, before finally deciding to follow the Lord outright. Grace outran my sin. God is great!

I was active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Texas A&M, where I got my bachelor's. After college I was aimless and started regressing spiritually. This went on for two years. Grace abounded again, God lovingly made me miserable in my sin, and I returned to him. Obedience then led me to seminary in Dallas. I was blessed with a wife I don't deserve, on top of everything else (we now have two sons, for whom I thank God most days).

I started seminary in the hope of getting a counseling degree. In the course of the curriculum I concluded that my gifts and desires were leading me to academics, and God willing, to teaching. Joel Lawrence, a friend from seminary, was especially inspiring to me in this regard. I switched gears and began to think about going on for a doctorate.

As for the Puritans, I had been introduced to them through my relationships in InterVarsity, which brings Protestants of all flavors together: dispensationalists like me, Reformed folks, and charismatics too. I always perceived something very unique and winsome about the Puritans' faith -- how could one not? When it came time to decide on a subject of study for my PhD, I chose these early modern dynamos. No regrets yet!

Thanks for bearing with this brief summary. There are lots of other people, organizations and occurrences I could name that God has used to draw and sanctify me. May they all be richly blessed.

Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." With Jesus Christ leading the way, I've found that's a snap.

My son is grimacing because he wants me to finish my studies and get a job.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Smitten of God': Penal substitution explained and defended

James Anderson (PhD, Sys Theo, U Edinburgh) is Assistant Pastor at Charlotte Chapel, here in Edinburgh. Last month he delivered a clear and compelling message on the penal substitution theory of the atonement, an object of critique to some outside and inside* the evangelical church. James presented biblical and theological defenses for this precious Gospel doctrine. This handout will help listeners follow his main points.



James' talk featured as an installment of the Chapel's "History & Theology Forum".

Here's a related excerpt by English puritan Richard Bernard (1568-1641), from his Contemplative Pictures: With Wholesome Precepts (1610):
"The Father of his mercy gave him for us, and he in love bestowed himself of us. The Father did will our peace, and he spared no pains. He came into the world poor, to make us rich. He was to the wicked a derision, that we with angels might be had in admiration. He was blasphemed, to make us blessed; buffeted and scorned, to make us secure in true comfort. He worked righteousness, that we might be free of wickedness. He was innocent, to procure us pardon, being penitent. His holiness is our happiness, his suffering our safety, his grace our good. He was here in trouble for us, his life painful and miserable, so his end for us doleful, and his torments intolerable. In all his life, that we read of, he did never laugh, but often lament. He mourned to see men’s madness, and wept for their woe. Here he sighed for to make us sing. He sobbed and sorrowed much to make us merry. He bore upon him unutterable torment patiently, that we might avoid the plagues of God eternally. His prayers were loud cries and strong, to make our prayers to pierce the heavens."
*e.g., Steve Chalke and Brian McLaren

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

John Owen vs John Milton, Round 1

Nineteenth century Congregational historian John Stoughton is one of my subjects. I just came across a comparison of John Owen and John Milton that I thought might be of benefit to some of the Owen-studiers in our contingent. This is the first part of a quotation comparing the two:

'The idiosyncrasies of individuals must be taken into account, since they always powerfully contribute to produce varieties of spiritual life. John Milton and John Owen were both Christians, both devout, both unceremonial, both advocating a wide liberty of conscience, both averse to Prelacy, and to all Presbyterian domination, both entertaining in general the same views of government, political and ecclesiastical; yet how unlike in many other respects! The one exhibiting in his religion the genius of a poet, the other the genius of a systematic theologian; the one soaring with outstretched wings into the loftiest regions of Divine contemplation, the other measuring every opinion by the standard of a remorseless logic, based upon Scripture; the one inspired with classic taste, chiselling the products of his intellect into forms of beauty, comparable to those of Phidias in the art of sculpture; the other careless respecting artistic style, and flinging out the treasures of his affluent mind after a fashion which is most excruciating to the aesthetical of this generation; the one a man of imagination, the other a man of reason; the one a Homer, the other an Aristotle amongst Puritans.'

(Ecclesiastical History, 1867, vol II, 431-2).

To be continued...


Copyright © 2008 Kristoforos Media. This layout made by and copyright cmbs.